Travels With Lucy: Upper Peninsula

January 9, 2018:

As much as I would have liked to have stuck around to explore Duluth for a few more days, I couldn't really justify staying. Lucy and I needed to keep some momentum up; the weather had been good to us, but it wouldn't stay friendly forever.

As it turned out, we would appreciate having left when we did, when the weather turned bad a few days down the line.

But it was still with reluctance that we drove out of Duluth on a fine, sunny morning, across the John A. Blatnik bridge and into Superior, Wisconsin.

Our destination was Ann Arbor, Michigan, in a couple of days, and every map I'd checked recommended taking a southerly route through Chicago to get there. But I'd always wanted to see Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and besides, I was pretty happy to avoid the busy, aesthetically dull Interstate system in favour of more relaxed backroads like US Route 2.

So we set out across the top of Wisconsin and aimed the truck for Escanaba, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. I was hoping to check out some shortline railroads in Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, but the day turned out to be sort of a skunk in that regard; we didn't see a train until we reached Escanaba toward late afternoon, and by that point traffic, construction and hunger/fatigue conspired against any kind of chase.

I did snap some pictures of snow-covered relics in the Escanaba and Lake Superior yard, though, including the first vintage Baldwin locomotives I'd ever seen in my life. But it was getting dark, and I was famished, and Lucy was reckless.

Just before night fell, we stopped at a rest area west of Escanaba and Lucy had a nice frolic in the woods, which was probably the highlight of both of our days.

We decided to stop for the night in St. Ignace, at the foot of the Mackinac Bridge that divides Michigan's Upper Peninsula from the southern part of the state. I grabbed a pretty good pasta dinner and drank a couple of local brews and we turned in at a pleasant, if slightly pet-neurotic, motel.

The next day was a short one, and one I'd been looking forward to for a while, as instead of a motel I'd be staying with my good friend Lynn and her husband, George, at their home near Ann Arbor.

I had a couple of foaming-related stops I wanted to make along the way, but though the weather was warm, it was soggy and rainy, and Lucy was in no mood to do any walking.

We explored the famous old train station at Durand, Michigan, for a while, and shot a few trains crossing the diamond there, but mostly we focused on getting to our destination.

I'd met Lynn before my first book came out; she's worked in the bookselling industry for a long time, and when my publisher flew me out to meet some Michigan booksellers, she and I hit it off pretty well. I've gone back to Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor on nearly all of my tours, and some of my fondest experiences on the road have been our dinners at Ann Arbor's infamous Zingerman's Roadhouse after my readings.

Lynn and George had a delicious dinner waiting, and we ate like royalty and relaxed and talked books and classic cars and dogs. Lucy made herself right at home; there were squirrels in the backyard to chase, and a comfy couch to rest on, and I wouldn't have been surprised if she mutinied the next morning and decided to stay back in Michigan without me.

We slept well. It was such a treat to see a good friend, to not have to worry about what to do with Lucy while I searched for dinner, to not have to find a hotel room.

As I drifted to sleep, a train whistle sounded in the distance, and I snuggled under the covers and felt pretty damn happy.